Jones powers Rangers to top

Andruw Jones -- yes, that Andruw Jones, the same overweight, underachieving outfielder the Dodgers paid $21 million last winter to go away -- hit home runs in his first three at-bats Wednesday night to lead the Texas Rangers to an 8-1 romp of the Angels.

With a chance to become only the 16th player in major league history to hit four homers in a game, Jones popped out to second base on a full-count pitch from reliever Kevin Jepsen to end the sixth inning.

Then in the ninth, with many fans in the crowd of 37,364 having remarkably left Angel Stadium, their sense of history obviously lacking, Jones struck out swinging against reliever Jason Bulger.

“I was thinking about it. I tried. I just couldn’t get it done,” Jones said of his attempt to hit his fourth homer after the Rangers took over first place in the AL West. “Maybe I thought about it a little too much. Those things happen.”


Jones’ first two homers came off starter Ervin Santana, who was rocked for five runs and seven hits, including three home runs, in four innings and has shown few signs of rebounding from the elbow problems that have forced him to the disabled list twice this season.

The right-hander is now 1-5 with a 7.81 earned-run average in eight starts, with 29 strikeouts and 17 walks in 40 1/3 innings, and his struggles could force the Angels to step up their efforts to trade for a starting pitcher such as Toronto’s Roy Halladay.

“Yeah, there’s concern,” Manager Mike Scioscia said of Santana. “I’m sure he’s healthy, but he’s obviously not putting the ball where wants to, and he’s not repeating pitches. It’s simple pitching, getting ahead, putting guys away and getting back into counts when you have to.”

Santana’s velocity was OK, though it took him a few innings to work into it. By the third, his fastball hit 93 mph several times and touched 94 twice.

His slider looked sharp at times -- Santana used it to strike out Elvis Andrus looking in the second, and Michael Young looking and Josh Hamilton swinging in the third.

But Santana’s fastball seemed to lack the late life that made it so difficult for hitters to catch up to last season, when he went 16-7 with a 3.49 ERA and was regularly hitting 96 mph.

And too many of Santana’s pitches, like the ones Jones belted for home runs and the one Taylor Teagarden drove over the center-field wall in the fourth, caught far too much of the plate.

“I feel very good, and the ball is coming out good,” Santana insisted. “They just hit the ball good. There’s nothing I can do about it. . . . I’m not worried. Sooner or later, it’s going to come out.”

While Santana’s woes deepened in Anaheim, Jones seems to have resurrected his career in Texas.

He was a complete bust after signing a two-year, $36.2-million deal with the Dodgers before 2008, batting .158 with three homers and 14 runs batted in last season.

The Dodgers released Jones from his contract when he agreed to defer most of the money he was owed for 2009, and Jones signed a minor league deal with the Rangers a few days before spring training in February.

He made the team as a reserve outfielder, and Wednesday night, he nearly etched his name onto a list of players that includes Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays and Mike Schmidt.

Jones, who entered with a .239 average, 11 home runs and 30 RBIs, hit a two-run homer to left field off Santana in the first and a towering solo shot just inside the left-field foul pole off Santana in the third.

In the fifth, facing reliever Rich Thompson, Jones lined a solo shot to left-center for homer No. 3. Marlon Byrd hit a two-run homer later in the inning, giving Texas an 8-1 lead.

Jones fell short of becoming the first player to hit four homers in a game since Toronto’s Carlos Delgado did it against Tampa Bay on Sept. 25, 2003.

But it was still the second three-homer game of Jones’ career -- his first was for the Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia on Sept. 25, 2002 -- and the 15th three-homer game in Rangers history.

“Andruw is having a terrific season for them,” Scioscia said. “He’s obviously much more comfortable in the box than we saw him last year with the Dodgers.”